Force India aim high in fourth season

2011 F1 season preview

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Force India

#14Adrian Sutil
#15Paul di Resta
Form 2006-2010:10*, 10**, 10, 9, 7
2010 points:68

*as Midland **as Spyker

Force India finished a highest-ever seventh in the world championship last year, just a point behind sixth-placed Williams.

But before the season was over there were signs their form was beginning to dip.

Towards the end of 2010 they were struggling to get both cars into Q2. They managed just a single points finish from the last four races.

Earlier in the year the team were hit by a double-whammy of departures from their technical department: first James Key left to join Sauber then Mark Smith, who inherited his workload, switched to Lotus.

There are signs team have hit a peak and are now on the other side of the slope. But they aren’t going down without a fight.

The VJM04, conceived by new technical director Andrew Green, is one of only two cars on the grid to adopt the ‘blade’ roll-hoop design of the 2010 Mercedes.

It retains the competitive and reliable McLaren drivetrain and this year the similar well-proven Mercedes Kinetic Energy Recovery System has been added.

The team have also tweaked their driver line-up, dropping Vitantonio Liuzzi – who had a generally poor 2010 – and replacing him with Paul di Resta.

It’s a sad reflection of the state of motor racing that after winning the F3 Euroseries in 2006 di Resta was unable to find the support to continue in single-seaters and had to switch to the DTM instead.

The DTM may be a competitive series with high-tech cars but as a feeder series to F1 it pales in comparison to GP2 or Formula Renault 3.5.

It races at few F1 venues and only offers a dozen or so opportunities to race per year. The last drivers to graduate from the DTM to F1 were Christijan Albers and Markus Winkelhock – and they didn’t last long.

Paul di Resta, Force India, Barcelona, 2011

But in another sense Di Resta is at a slight advantage compared to some of his fellow 2011 rookies in that he participated in eight practice sessions last year. Although the mileage was not that great it gave him an introduction to several new circuits.

Nico Hulkenberg steps into the role of third driver formerly occupied by di Resta. That’s an interesting proposition in itself because Hulkenberg had a promising debut season with Williams last year including, of course, that pole position.

There’s nothing like having a promising and hungry young driver in the third driver spot to keep the pressure on the drivers in the race seats. Hulkenberg is too good to be left on the sidelines for long and everyone knows it.

The team didn’t run VJM04 until the second test. With teams who finished behind them last year such as Toro Rosso and Sauber attracting attention with some quick times, Force India could have more of a fight on their hands this year.

The team expect to perform even better then they did in 2010, targeting sixth place in the championship and podium finishes.

However well they do, they can expect a lot of support when the teams head to the first ever Indian Grand Prix in October.

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Images © Force India F1 Team

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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36 comments on “Force India aim high in fourth season”

  1. The team is Progressing nicely every year and we expect top 5 position in 2011 :)

    1. The car looks very squared and simple in front of the cockpit, and the nose is not as developed as those of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari.

  2. I am looking forward to see how they are doing. The car has been running pretty solidly now, without any major issues. Not doing top times, but who would they want to impress with that.

    Still curious how they will do this year and weather Hulk gets a racing drive instead of Sutil (or Di Resta) in the near future.

    1. I can’t see Sutil being replaced, he is regularly a strong contender.

  3. Well if they don’t perform well, VJM can always find someone at Lotus to sue.

  4. This team is definitely my favourite out of al the mid field teams, and they have an exciting driver line up as well. I hope they can fight with Williams for that WCC spot they just lost out on last year.

  5. I think they will go backwards this year in terms of performance but may finish 7th again if di Resta proves as talented as he’s made out to be. They’ve lost key personnel to other teams and were slipping back all of last year.

    1. I agree with this sentiment. I would be surprised if they finished higher than last year, especially with what others have said about the competitiveness of their rivals.

      Di Resta will be quick though, and i’m happy to be quoted on that if it turns out to be untrue. Serious talent there

      1. I agree to, i don’t know anything but to me the car looks like a block of cheese on wheels. Very square and nothing new really at all. However i hope i’m proved wrong because I like all teams doing well, a more competetive season is a better season.

  6. I’m not really a fan of Force India; of all the teams on the grid, they’re the ones to have consistently drawn a resounding “meh” from me. It’s probably something to do with a completely uninspiring driver line-up and an eye-jarring lievry (though the gold and white one they ran in their maiden season was nice).

    I am, however, interested in seeing how Paul di Resta does. Most drivers enter Formula 1 after impressing in GP2, Formula 3 or the relevant lower-tier open-wheel series. A handful will defect from the USSR Indycar (sorry, I just watched THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER), but that’s about it. No-one has ever really come up from DTM before, except for Christjian Albers, and he had about as much business being in motorsport as I do performing a hybrid of country and western and punk music at a tea party rally (and where did this sentence go?).

    The point is that DTM is a place where aging Formula 1 drivers are put out to pasture. And until now, we’ve never really had a driver get promoted into Formula 1 from the series. So I’m curious as to how di Resta will fare.

    1. M.Schumacher came to F1 from Sports Cars not open top, and he did quite well!

      1. He came from the equivalent of an LMP1 car though, not a glorified touring car.

        1. DTM are hardly the type of cars you can pop down to your local Audi or Merc garage are they?

          I think Di Resta will do well, and it cant harm him that he was a Merc factory driver either.

    2. Agree with everything you’ve said.

  7. Too bad they didn’t make the most of their best car at the start of 2010. Now, STR and Sauber seem to have taken a step further ahead. One thing for sure they will keep pushing hard until at least the indian gp. I also have the feeling Mallya’s commitment to F1 might depend on the response to the ind gp.

    1. I have a feeling the reason for them slipping back could be due to Mallaya having alot less disposable cash this year and the end of last year…his airline is not doing very well at all, big big debts…I agree, if their Indian GP goes badly, he could loose his motivation even further…

  8. I predict that Force India will struggle to maintain 7th in the constructors this year. The last 2 cars have only had real strength at the low drag circuits and the guy that gave them that particular charicteristic is now at Sauber.

    Their chassis looks very basic. In fact it resembles the ING Renault from 2009 and we haven’t seen any signs in testing that its going to trouble Renault, Williams, Mclaren, Toro Rosso or Mercedes.

    I think they’ll be battling Lotus this year or sure.

    Red Bull and Ferrari are well ahead and then further down there are 5 other teams who are on very similar pace to each other. Those being Renault, Williams, Mclaren, Toro Rosso and Mercedes. Then I think Sauber slot in behind them. Then you have Force India and Lotus very close together with MVR and HRT bringing up the rear although I have a sneaking suspicion that HRT will be quicker than Virgin after a few races because Geoff Willis will have used a wind tunnel instead of a Commodore 64 to ratify the aero.

    1. I could have sworn it was a Sinclaire Spectrum, perhaps you have better access to key tech staff of Virgin.

      1. I believe Marrussia are funding the Sinclair Spectrum as an add on to the existing C64 set up but it won’t be operational until mid season. At least the 2012 car will have the benefit of it though!!

        1. No, now with the new higher investment from Marussia they have upgraded to Amiga 500.
          That will certainly give them a boost to keep the fight with HRT.

  9. I don’t think the Lotus has been anywhere near the Force India has been in testing or any of the other midfield teams. The Sauber, Toro Rosso and Williams seem better though. Although in this test the VJM04 hasn’t been that slow, but I can’t notice any visual upgrades on it either.

    FI said they have an aggressive development plan for this car but considering this would have been the Bahrain test, for there to be seemingly no upgrades on the car, doesn’t bode well. Especially since this car is probably the plainest on the grid. Maybe after the Virgin.

    1. This weekend could have been the race itself.

  10. I’ll be very surprised if Hulkenberg isn’t driving one of these two cars buy the end of the season. Sutil was one of the most disappointing drivers on the grid last season (not necessarily one of the worst, just one of the biggest let downs) – he’ll have to watch his back. Di Resta if anything will probably be given more time, but unless another team has a driver loss and poaches Hulkenberg, I think Nico will be in a seat before the end of the season.

    1. Agree. Sutil looked like one to watch at the end of 2009 but last year, pretty uninspiring. Di Resta will be given more time, just like Petrov was.

      Would love to see the Hulk racing :D

      1. Sutil looked like one to watch at the end of 2009

        I’d certainly be watching out for him hurtling towards my car thats for sure. Just before he cleared us both out.

        He is talented no doubt, but I sometimes think hes a bit like Titus Bramble (footballer). If you look at all of his abilities, it all looks good. But somehow they always manages to b&lls it all up.

        I suspect you’ll get your wish on the Hulk. There arent many better potential teammate pairings out there in the midfield than NH and P Di Resta.

    2. I’ll be very surprised if Hülkenberg IS driving for them by the end of the season. Everyone thought Liuzzi would be gone before season’s end last year, and look how that turned out. Mallya doesn’t seem to drop drivers too hastily ala Torro Rosso or HRT…

  11. I think it will all depend on how Renault will perform relative to them.

    1. If anyone, I would say more Mercedes.

  12. all the three cars using Merc engines are struggling to be where they would like to be. I feel Force India has bought no significant updates to make their car better than last season. and Sauber, STR & Williams have upped their game bit. As some one mentioned the car nose looks like R29. When all teams are trying to align their car design closer to Red Bull this team is trying something different. However Andy Green has said that major updates will be coming for the 1st race in europe, so let’s wait and see how this team progresses…

    1. Major updates are brought by every team at this time.

      1. true, but that basically means the car won’t change much from now till 1st race in europe…. incase of other teams you will see some new things for Melbourne, Malaysia…. but not for FI. Thats the impression i got from their comments….

    2. Put the merc customer engine in the back of the williams, and you’d have a car right there!

      The STR is my fav car so far in terms of doing something different.

  13. One hit wonder. Mid-pack for sure.

  14. I would like:
    Plenty points, a lucky podium for Di Resta, a prettier (and more effective, naturally) nosecone, and good competion with Williams, Sauber, and god forbid – Mclaren…

    1. I doubt we will see McLaren that far up front this year :p

  15. I do have high hopes that they will keep on improving as they did in the last three years,however after looking at the test time I think that they will fall behind Sauber & may be even Torro Rosso,Williams not sure.

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